The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
5 Points

Life in jail or the Death Sentence?

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/1/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,539 times Debate No: 22487
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (4)
Votes (1)




I have taken many classes where this has been a serious topic for debate. I have found myself on both ends, thinking- well why would I want to pay taxes to keep this person in jail forever, or, maybe they should learn their lesson and have to live with it in a jail cell. I'm interested to see someone argue for the death penalty and hope to learn some things I may have not been aware of, also some opinions on it. I will be arguing for life in prison as I believe that's a true punishment, and the death penalty serves as unethical and hypocritical. However, I would like to learn some things I may not have already known, so I hope this is a good debate! It will be five rounds. good luck!


C1: Deterrence

Before one can talk about the DP, one must look at the most controversial part of the DP: Deterrence. Before I get into raw facts I will talk about a simple thing: Deterrence theory.

Deterrence theory is pretty straight forward, it is that if you increase the penalties for something people will be less likely to do the thing with punishments. [1] It's a lovely thing isn't it? A simple and logical theory easy to grasp. The thing people fear most is death. Death, to some people, means everything ends. To others, you may go to eternal torture (Assuming we are hanging murderers that are christian). The thing people ear most is death, as this is a bigger penalty according to theory people should be hesitant to murder if the DP is in place.

---> Academic studies

This is very interesting, something I seldom thought of. When I first became pro DP I just used the philosophy above, and no research. But this firmly proves my point. Many series of academic studies show the DP deters crime [murder]. [2] Many people, the makers of this study, actually claim there is enough data and correlation to say there is an inherit deterrent effect to the DP. [2] The heritage foundation reports similar reports, from many economic professors and academic schools of thought, proving the DP deters crime and saves lives. [3] NPR shows a study saying each usage of the DP may even lead to 70 people saved! [4] Is this true? Maybe maybe not. But according to all of these statistics the DP has an inherit deterrent effect.

---> Lowe's findings

The reason I exclude Westley Lowe's findings (although he uses similar numbers) is because he is a book writer. Not making him less credible as he uses sourced information, but I wouldn't classify him in the academic findings above. Lowe finds that 3-18 murders are saved by usage of the DP. [5] He also finds historical linkages with deterrence from the DP in English occupied India. [5] He also finds when the moratorium of the DP occurred murder rates increased a significant amount. [5] He provides a nifty graph:

source 5

C2: Former convicts return to crime

Certian stats actually allow people on life sentenes parole in 3 years, others never. [6] The point is they sometimes get to go free. Now, I will explain how this is a problem.

There is no info on murder (on this study), but 2% of rapists commit the crime after released, 70% of robbers commit crimes once released. [7] Life sentces also usually decay over time, and the people are let out onto parole. [8] The problem with this is they commit the same crime after they are let out! [8]

Also 5% of death row inmates killed people in jail or during the escape, or if they are let out. [9] This means speadig up execution may be ideal, and putting them on life sentences means they now can kill more people while escaping/other inmates.

vote CON


[9] (PDF)
Debate Round No. 1


Interesting. I will start by clarifying one thing, that you just told me all about the deterrence THEORY. Although there may be a lot of viable information that backs it up, it is still, indeed, only a theory. With theories, there is also much information that is incomplete and flawed. I was interested in the information you provided about the theory and decided to look into it. I came upon an online copy of a book on politics that clarified this theory by discussing it from a different point of view, which, of course, parallels with my belief.

Think of it like this, yes the research done could be a good predictor of how things might turn out, but that accounts for only so much of the population. No theory could rationally test every case and produce one rational or fair outcome.

Considering what I have learned from your argument, I will also consider the different factors. For everyone that commits this crime when released, the amount of people who don't commit the crime is very much the same. That's what has to be considered, just because we have evidence of both, does not mean the negative outweighs the other. Nothing justifies a crime, however, nothing justifies a killing of those who committed the crime. The deterrence theory ignores many risk factors. Certain cases could be different based on the offender, and NOT the crime.

There is no guarantee that one would return to a life of crime after their release, however if there could be a way to limit ones ability to be released and instead serve their life sentence then this may work better. The death penalty is in a way giving the person a way out, and at times people would rather take the death penalty than rot in prison for the rest of their lives.


Deterrence theory

My opponents case is it's a theory. This is funny, as disregarding it because it has the word theory is odd. Gravity is a theory, is gravity wrong? [1] Evolution is a theory, is it wrong? [2] My opponents argument on its a theory fallacy. Deterrence theory was used in the cold war: More troops more guns. [3] And it seemed to work. My opponents argument is falsified. There are studies proving even crazy people respond to the costs and benefits. [4]

Academic studies

My opponents argument here is short, and only refutes it takes up for only a certain amount of population. Some of the studies looked at crime rates before and after moratoriums, the WHOLE population of that state or country. Others used other methods to gain the numbers. Like a poll, you get 1000 people, and put a +3 -3 or something else. There is, in fact, a margin of error. But the majority of the studies have numbers from 3-18. A few others have some that range from 70-100 lives saved. Your refutation is a fallacy, as many of these credible studies that you seem to not have read into are extremely credible.

Using state level data, this study concluded each execution lead to the saving of 5 lives. [5]

Returning to crime

My opponents argument here is there is no gaurentee. Then says does it outweigh the downsides. As my opponent has not showed any downsides to the DP, I win the argument. Further more as stated 5% of death row inmates kill again if they are released. LWOP actually lets people out, there are many examples of this. [6] So switching to LWOP means many will now get killed. So, my opponent has not showed any DP downsides. So, do new people getting killed have any upsides?



[4] Gary S. Becker, "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 76, No. 2 (1968), pp. 169-217.
[5] H. Naci Mocan and R. Kaj Gittings, "Getting Off Death Row: Commuted Sentences and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment," Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 46, No. 2 (2003), pp. 453-478.
Debate Round No. 2


Have you ever taken a philosophy course? How do you know that any of this is right? Yes those are all theories, and for as many people who believe that these theories are in fact true, there are just as many who discount them completely. The word theory isn't funny, because it still means the same thing no matter how it is applied ; a set of ideas used to explain something. So, yes, I will revert back to what I previously stated and correct where you seemed to have a misunderstanding. We use theories to explain things, this doesn't mean they are FULLY correct or FULLY applicable. We believe things to be as they are because that's how we've been taught to explain them. For some time the theory of evolution was not even taught in schools- this is a prime example of this and I thank you for lending it to me. Who's to say this is correct? I know I am not, and I know that these theories- although they lend structure to our beliefs- do not always account for the whole. A theory can only explained so much, and not everything can be explained.

I also find it "funny", as you say, that you take a nice stab at the fact that my argument was somewhat brief. It was straight and to the point. If there is a necessary lesson I have gained throughout debating (in person) it is about quality of the arguments and not always quantity. The strategy of saying "you're wrong" also will not work in your favor because, clearly, that is not what a debate entails. A debate is about presenting your argument, and considering the counter-argument, while also attempting to refute it. It is not an attack on the other person.

So, as I continue, I'd like to discuss morals and opinions. My opinion is this, I would rather pay taxes to have someone be locked up in jail for the rest of their lives then to have them killed and not have to face what they did in jail. Nothing justifies a killing. If you were to create a scale of certain "degrees" of killing, how you you rate it? Not killing would obviously be on the top. This is exactly my point, no view is going to be the same, my scale could be completely different that yours, however, you would probably agree (I would hope, for your sake) that not killing is the best. Some people would have completely different scales, and some people don't even consider this because they could care less about their morals all together. Point being that although our views differ, it does not mean that one may be better than the other. You will never see me debate and say "my view is better". I debate to say, there is reason to your argument, and there is reason to mine.

I actually did provide plenty of downsides to DP, but I'm glad you took the liberty to claim you "won" the argument. We go to war, lose many lives, but does that justify going to war? Is there necessary sacrifices one must take in order to reach a certain outcome? Certainly the end does not justify the means but if it means serving the greater good than it could be necessary.

Consider this:
the poll states that half of Americans prefer jail sentence over the death penalty. This isn't a slap on the wrist, some horrible things occur in prisons, convicts aren't protected from each other. The death sentence is a dark part of our society, one that defies all "moral" standards we have created. So, continue to talk about theories or morals, but in the end we contradict them.



My opponent has actually created a red herring on the theory argument, yet ignores the other studies. The theory is proven by the studies provided. Criminals, much of the time, respond to higher punishment. This is a fact. [1] I now call an and to the red herring.

My opponent drops my whole case

My opponents first argument:

Popular support

His argument is most people are against the DP. Photo albums are so useful ;)

Looks like most people like the DP.


dido. VOTE CON


Vite con.

[1] Gary S. Becker, "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 76, No. 2 (1968), pp. 169-217.
Debate Round No. 3


Well, speaking of short debates...

Lets get down to the real issue here- cruel and unusual punishment. The death penalty goes against the constitution and causes inconsistency with our governmental system of democracy. Some things that may interest you is that the death penalty is actually very unfair. When it comes down to it, people who would seem so "deserving" of it to you might not be condemned to death as they have better attorneys, more money, better protection, etc. In most cases, people of color are more likely to receive the death sentence than white people are.

Much to your dismay and "thorough" research, surveys have been done that prove the death penalty is ineffective. A survey of law enforcement officials concluded that the death sentence will not prevent or lessen violent crime, and a survey done of police chiefs concluded that they rank the death penalty lowest on the scale of effective punishment. These are two groups of people who deal directly with capital punishment and crime- these aren't theories.

What about the loss of innocent life? Too many people have been sentenced to death who have not actually committed a crime. If they were to be put in jail and proved innocent, at least they would be given another chance at life.

also, I am not a "'he".


My opponent brings up a new argument, the 8th amendment. Now the 8th amendment states:

"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." [1]

Now, is the death penalty inherently cruel?

"Trop v. Dulles, Chief Justice Earl Warren, no friend of the death penalty, said:

"Whatever the arguments may be against capital punishment, both on moral grounds and on grounds and in terms of accomplishing the purposes of punishment.... the death penalty has been employed throughout our history, and in a day when it is still widely accepted, it cannot be said to violate the conceptional concept of cruelty". [2]

Now, this is interesting and valid. We have used this punishments for ages, and if the founding fathers thought the DP was cruel there would be no DP. Now I will be a grammarian and use the word "and" to advantage.

"cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." [1]

Now see the word and. This implies both must be used, so the DP must be unusual to break this as well. As it is quite usual, most sates still use it, it does not break this clause.

Also, the 5th amendment helps:
"It is up to the law to speak to them-to speak for all grief-stricken survivors confronted with the butchery of someone near and dear. Capital punishment says to them: We, the community, take your loss with the utmost seriousness. We know that you are filled with rage and pain. We know that you may cry for vengeance, may yearn to strangle the murderer with your bare hands. You are right to feel that way. But it is not for you to wreak retribution. As a decent and just society, we will do it. Fairly. After due process. In a court of law." [2]


My opponent then states the argument, it is ineffective, and expert said so!! Does this matter? "Experts" said the crash in '07 was impossible, but because some guy with a PHD says so does not mean its true. Your must read many studies to formulate an opinion, not because the DPIC says no. Other studies show criminals have no differences then us, they weigh the pros and cons. [3] As this is true, we can assume the DP deters crime. Now, before we can assume this we must look into other examples. Another example is gun laws. One study finds they also can reason, and fear death and be deterred by the con of death or injury when committing an act. [4] With this we can conclude this theory is one like gravity; it is named theory, but is essentially fact.

My opponent then claims innocent lives oh no!! The DP has a 99.6% accuracy rate. [5] Now lets do math.

Lets assume, lets make it easy and make the DP not accurate at all. 100 executions, one is innocent. Ok? Lets assume the DP saves 5 lives, like one study showed. This means 500 lives are saved, please correct me my math is not my forte. But we must minus one life, as one was innocent, then 5 more as lets assume it saved no one.

500-5 = 495 - 1= 494 lives. Now, this is making he DP less accurate then it is by .6%. But lets assume it is the simple 99%. So, at he loss of 1 life, and technically no lives saved, so I subtracted anther 5 (I probably did that wrong, but still) there is a significant increase in lives saved. You lose one life from 494. We cannot say any open life is less valuable, but this saves lives overall. One innocent life lost, almost 500 saved. Now, guys, the DP saves more lives then it takes away. My opponent argument only works if it kills more innocent lives. The DP saves more innocents then it executes.

I am sorry I called you a he :P


[3] Paul H. Rubin, "The Economics of Crime," in Ralph Andreano and John J. Siefried, eds., The Economics of Crime (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1980)
[4] "More Guns less crime" John R. Lott, 3rd addition
Debate Round No. 4


Well interesting argument, I must say. However, I don't see the whole "cruel AND unusual" case using AND.. that really doesn't quite make sense to me. To be honest I'm not sure what you're getting at and it is that actually real and credible because it seems as though you just made that up to add to your argument.

You also say the words of experts make no sense, when your information has come from "experts" this entire debate. Seems a bit hypocritical. If we were to not base our information off of "expert" analysis, then what do we base it off of? I am interested to know where else you or anyone else for that matter would gather their information. I will not battle you with morals, because that s a whole different debate in itself.

You brought up the founding fathers, and I see where you are coming from but couldn't it also be argued that laws change with society? Back then many things were still out of order, and to this day not everything is sorted out. As society develops, so do the laws. We are structured by our laws- why should society be faced with the decision to condemn someone to death? What gives a judge, a jury, or anyone to say it is fair to kill? It violates what we stand for, all of our constitutional beliefs- on big contradiction.

Take this last thought: Executions lend to society the idea that human life need not be respected nor protected- and in this way it justifies homicide.

vote pro :)


=dropped arguments by pro=

Popular support
people respond to crime
Lowes findings
Much of the deterrent argument
innocence [round 5 no refutation]

I have refuted all of her points, this is already enough info to give me arguments.

--> "And" explained

And - "used to connect words of the same part of speech, clauses, or sentences that are to be taken jointly:
bread and butter
red and black tiles
they can read and write a hundred and fifty" [1]

This means the cruel and unusual actually link together with the conjunction and, if one is missing the other is invalid. So you have not proven it is cruel nor unusual, therefore I win the constitutionality.

--> Experts

I am not using overall polls to conduct research. I am using lengthy studies and theories to prove my points, not the more people claim BS therefore its right approach. That is a violation of the bandwagon fallacy. [2] The argument here is refuted as you used no studies nor strong theories, and a study is different then a poll.

--> founding fathers

I used this on the 8th amendment. This proves it does not violate the constitution. Changing the laws is ok, but the 8th amendment argument here is false. You have provided no reasons why changing the laws in current society would benefit.

--> no respect for life

First, it saves lives. As my math shows it actually respects almost 500 lives every 100 usages. Also this is a new argument last round, conduct violation. As it is a new argument last round it should be discarded.


DP > LWOP. Easy.

=Reasons to vote pro=

Conduct - me, new arguments last round
Sources - moi, easy choice here too. I had more sources all [most] from credible sources.
Arguments - Moi, dropped most of the arguments, did not fulfill the BOP, and well I refuted all of her claims
S/g - your choice



Debate Round No. 5
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by thett3 4 years ago
dude 16k stop snatching up all the death penalty debates and leave some for me. Gosh.
Posted by 16kadams 4 years ago
to late I did.

I will post stuff later, I have another argument for another debate to make
Posted by Clearys 4 years ago
Posted by THEBOMB 4 years ago
make it 3 days (72 hours) to post arguments and I'll take this.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by frozen_eclipse 4 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
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Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Though i dont support capital punishment they are better off in jail, But the con of this debate did do a great job logistically,and refutation wise, Pro had some good ideals as well but con appealed more as the winner.